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Forests sell-off gets the chop

MERIDEN MP Caroline Spelman has admitted plans to sell off vast tracts of state-owned forest were a mistake.

MERIDEN MP Caroline Spelman has admitted plans to sell off vast tracts of state-owned forest were a mistake.

The Environment Secretary found herself at the centre of a storm of controversy after the proposals were announced.

Now plans to sell off or lease 258,000 hectares have been postponed and a panel will be set up to advise on the future of forests.

Speaking at the House of Commons last week, Mrs Spelman apologised for the anger that the plans had caused.

“I am sorry,” she told fellow MPs. “We got this one wrong.”

“As part of restoring trust in politics, it’s important that the electorate can see the Government will listen.

“If there is one clear message it is that people cherish their forests and woodlands and the benefits that they bring.”

Amy Fisher, Mrs Spelman’s special advisor, told the Solihull News that the plans were never a “done deal”.

“We make no bones about it, this wasn’t popular with people,” she said.

“Rather than carry blindly on, as the last government did over Post Office closures, we knew we had to listen to the public.”

Among the sites affected was Hay Wood, an ancient woodland and wildlife habitat near Chadwick End.

Half a million people signed a petition against the plans, worried about a loss of public access and commercial developments.

Karl Macnaughton, from Chelmsley Wood Green Party, welcomed last week’s announcement.

“This u-turn represents a victory for the hundreds of thousands of people who campaigned against the sell-off,” he said.

“Had the sale gone ahead, the long-term threat to these woodlands would have been significant.”

Tories have commended their cabinet minister for showing “guts and honesty”, while Labour has branded the decision “an embarrassing u-turn”.

 

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